It’s Saturday night, and we’re celebrating our buddy TJ’s first birthday.
He has Erinn’s gorgeous blue eyes and Tyler’s quick smile. He also has joined the ranks of the walking, and for a little guy who took his first steps just weeks ago, he’s a speedy one.
I watch Erinn from across the room. She’s holding TJ and laughing with another guest. “What a fast year,” I say to Tyler.
“It really has gone fast,” he says. His eyes are on his son. “But now I can’t remember how things were without him. We’re really lucky.”
For the rest the evening, that’s what I notice: a funny, fast, adorable baby, and his parents’ quiet, doting gratitude. I’ve known Erinn and Tyler for years and years and so many years, and I’ve never seen them so happy.
There’s something about a first birthday party. Amid the grown-up cooing over toothy smiles and tiny pink cheeks, there’s an almost palpable sense of possibility—the wonderment at all the things this child could one day be.
Music always sounds best at night, on the road. Have you noticed?
On the way home from the party, GB flips through his saved songs and lands on John Lennon’s Isolation. The boys are asleep in the backseat, so we listen in silence.
“Wow. The talent on that guy,” I say.
GB shakes his head. “Can you imagine what else he could have accomplished if he were still alive?”
I spend the rest of the ride home feeling pensive.
The next day, I have an hour of exercise all to myself. The ground is slaked in an early-November frost, but the sun is shining and the golden piles of leaves at my feet are crisp and dry. My tunes are on shuffle, and as I round a corner, I hear the opening bars of this long-time personal favorite:
Robert Plant wrote the song after his girlfriend gave him an ultimatum: “Pick me or your music.” He chose his band, and wrote a song 10 years later about the heartbreak of wondering.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about chances: the ones we’re given, and the ones we wrest for ourselves. About John Lennon and his words snuffed out too early. Robert Plant looking back from atop his musical empire. My friends in their newborn parenthood. Other friends working toward or against their aspirations. And everyone else, really, who ever wanted something and believed in it.
They all are/were faced with two competing sentiments: Doubt and Hope. Hope and doubt. It’s hard to know which one to listen to. But in the end, if the hope is stronger, I tend to believe it will lead you to the right place—to the people and opportunities meant for you.
Hope is a motivating force. Call it faith if you think it fits. It makes you wonder how to separate what you are meant to do and what you simply want for yourself. Is there really a difference, if you believe in it strongly enough?
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